In a recently released, detailed 64-page report entitled “The State of Cancer Care in America 2015,” the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) provided readers with more than a snapshot of what cancer care looks like in America today. Depending on how one measures progress against cancer—e.g., the number of new drugs available to treat cancer, the reduction in mortality from cancer—the fact is that much avoidable suffering from cancer remains as a prevalent symptom of living with, through and beyond the diagnosis of cancer.
Prior reports and articles published on the state of cancer care have included many of the challenges cited in this year’s report. Of particular interest to us this year is mention of the 14.5 million cancer survivors living among us. As therapies are developed to extend one’s life, insufficient evidence is available about how to reduce the risk of morbidities associated with exposure to cancer treatment over the short and longer term. This is particularly true for childhood and young adult cancer survivors who will prematurely age because of their exposure to life-extending therapies. The consequences to them personally are obvious; what is less obvious are the healthcare and societal costs from this burgeoning population. Their needs for rehabilitation and their compromised ability to thrive in the workforce over the longer term of their survivorship are often compromised to the point of disability and inability to thrive.
While we celebrate this growing population of long-term survivors, we implore the research and clinical workforce, as well as actuaries and payers, to seek and apply interventions to help realize better outcomes.